As has often been the case in the past, when the dry bulk market is experiencing good fortunes, tankers are suffering and vice versa. While this is mostly coincidental, it also serve as a testament that volatility in both sectors is more obvious in the past few years, than in the more distant past. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal noted that "with the majority of second-hand tonnage transactions taking place in the dry bulk sector it's easy to lose sight of what is happening over at the tanker side and for a good reason. Things have been mostly quiet for the last seven months with the exception of short periods of increased activity during the summer months".
According to Intermodal's SnP Broker, Mr. Timos Papadimitriou, "the tanker market has evolved into a market that requires fast reflexes. Cycles are becoming shorter, usually lasting 16 to 18 months, thus creating a sense of uncertainty as far as when to off load a respective asset or invest in tonnage. Taking into consideration that tankers assets are depreciated differently compared to bulkers and how oil majors can influence trends as far as buying, selling and contracting tonnage, it is very common to witness price irregularities on the transactions within the same time period".
Papadimitriou said that "electric cars, MGO regulations, developing economies, clean and renewable energy policies and last but not least the "Paris climate Accord", all play a part on the everlasting and ongoing discussion of what the influence on tanker demand and supply will be. If you add to the mix the BWTS regulations that will eventually start being implemented even after the latest extension, then making an educated guesstimate on how to position one's self as an investor, demands nerves of steel and a strong stomach".
He added that "despite all of the above there has been some appetite for tonnage. Buyers do emerge from time to time looking for tonnage built anytime; from late ‘90s crude units up to 4-3 year old MRs and LRs. Of course the demand for tankers is not anywhere close to that for dry bulk tonnage, but there is no shortage of investors willing to buy especially on the product side. The MR segment was rendered doomed a few years ago due to a rather large order book, but overall the segment has demonstrated impressive resilience despite the current dip on hire rates. Now the same concern is raised for crude ships and for the same reason. Again time will tell".
Similarly, "regulations will have an effect on older tonnage where the cost of retrofitting the required equipment could defeat the purpose, eventually leading to the removal of ships from the water. Now considering that ordering has been in check for the last 2 years, the prospects of the next 2-4 years don't look so bad especially for the younger tonnage. As far as the near future is concerned and as it has been more than a few months that the market has remained under pressure, the expectation that better days will soon come doesn't appear very unrealistic. In fact the majority of market participants have been widely adopting the idea that signs of recovery will start being visible sooner rather than later", Papadimitriou said.
He concluded his analysis by noting that "this provides sellers the appropriate confidence to resist lowering their ideas. Buyers on the other hand don't feel that prices need to be a lot lower than where they are now. Overall at this stage buying tonnage does not seem as a bad move. After all investing in a slow market is never considered to be a hasty move".